THE STORY OF THE ERE-DWELLERS
Uspak And His Men At The Strands.
They Give Up Their Work.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33
Snorri the Priest took up all the cases of Alf the Little at the hands of Uspak and his men, and made all those guilty at the Thorsness Thing; and after the Thing he went home to Tongue, and sat at home until the time came for the court of forfeiture to sit; (1) and then he went north to Bitter with a great company. But when he came there, then was Uspak gone with all his; and they had gone north to the Strands fifteen in company, and had five keels. They were at the Strands through the summer, and did there many unpeaceful deeds.
They set them down north in Wrackfirth, and gathered men to them, and thither came he who is called Raven and was bynamed the Viking. (2) He was nought but an ill-doer, and had lain out north about the Strands. There they wrought great warfare with robbing and slaying of men, and held all together till towards winter-nights.
Then gathered together the Strand-men, Olaf Eyvindson, of Drangar, and other bonders with him, and fell on them. They had there a work once more about their stead in Wrackfirth, and were well-nigh thirty in company. Olaf and his folk sat down before the work, and hard to deal with they deemed it to be. So both sides talked together, and the evil-doers offered to get them gone from the Strands, and do no more unpeaceful deeds there henceforth, while the others should depart from before the work; and whereas they deemed it nowise an easy play to have to do with them, they took that choice, and both sides bound themselves by oath to this settlement, and the bonders fared home withal.
(1) (Snorri) "sat at home until the time came for the court of forfeiture to sit" -- "sat heima til feransdoms". This court was held fourteen days after judgment had fallen against the accused; or, if the case had been decided against him by award, fourteen days after the next following Althing. As a rule, it was held at the home of the guilty person, but in cases where his proper domicile or district of amenability to justice were uncertain, the court was held at the house of the Gothi who was regarded as being most concerned in the case. The court should be established within an arrow's shot-reach of the enclosure to the homefield, on that side of the same which pointed directly towards the home of the plaintiff, if the circumstances of the locality would allow such spot outside the homefield to be occupied; but it was also provided, that the seat of the court should be chosen where there was "neither acre nor ing" (= mowable meadow). The Gothi, within whose jurisdiction the court was held, should nominate twelve judges for it out of the nearest neighbours, for which nomination it signified nothing whether the neighbours were the Gothi's Thingmen or not. The judges could be challenged by the defendant even as the members of a jury could be. The executor (plaintiff) should summon, three nights or more before the meet of the court, five of the nearest neighbours to deliver all verdicts before it. He should likewise summon thither those who were witnesses to the delivery of the judgment or the award against the accused in the first instance. The creditors of the accused should likewise meet before this court, having summoned thither their witnesses, or, in case they had none such, the proper complement of nearest neighbours. Every creditor was to have what debt he had against the accused paid in full, or, in case his means sufficed not, reduced at a proportionate rate to those of the rest. When all creditors were satisfied, the Gothi was the next first claimant to his share in the remainder of the accused's property; he should have a cow or an ox four years old, or, if so much was not left over, one mark. Of the remainder one half fell to the share of the plaintiff, the other half to that of the men of the Quarter or of the Thing, according as the accused, was condemned at the Althing or the Spring Thing. For the elaborate legislation relating to this court, see especially Gragas, i. a, 83-96. (2) "Raven was by-named the Viking. He was nought but an evil-doer." "Vikingr" is frequently used as a synonym for evil-doer, thief, and robber. Thus in our own saga we read: "Snorri the Priest and Sturla scattered the vikings", namely, Uspak and his band. So also the term is used of Thorir Thomb and his companions, who elsewhere are described as the worst of robbers and evil-doers ("Grettir's saga", xix). The first settler of the bay of Bitter, Thorbiorn Bitter, is even in "Landnama" said to have been "a viking and a scoundrel" (ii, ch. 32, p. 159). This sense of the word is supposed to be due to degeneracy, by lapse of time, from something nobler which once upon a time was implied by it. That probably is a mere mistake. The viking's profession, whenever it is mentioned, is chiefly defined as robbery, arson, and manslaughter. Perpetrated on foreigners = natural enemies, it mattered not, especially as it served the end of military distinction at home; exercised on fellow-citizens, living under laws of their own making, its real nature appeared in its true light; hence, from the first, the viking was -- abroad, a hero; at home, a scoundrel.